That is how a good friend and industry executive described the retail toy marketplace to me recently, and another confirmed that observation the very next day.
Though I have heard that some companies claim significant sales and profit growth this year, in the same breath they like to talk about the problems their competitors are having. One observer claimed that the industry as a whole is being downgraded, though I cannot confirm that statement.
A long term trend has been the declining effectiveness of TV advertising to reach a target audience. With the rapid growth in the streaming of content to mobile devices, the challenge of reaching both children and the 25-35 year-old moms that make purchasing decisions is exacerbated. What to do?
As this very same demographic of Moms upgrade to the latest new iPhone, iPad, etc, they give the older model to their children to play with, and there is a great deal of play value that can be had with such a device over a wide range of ages. Is this then supplanting traditional toy and game purchases? Moms' yearly $500+ upgrade to the latest model mobile phone/tablet has to come out of the budget somewhere. Are toy expenditures suffering as a result?
Play value is not just time spent playing with a toy or game, but also the value of the intangible benefits of playing with such toy or game – like learning how to effectively interact with others, learning fine and gross motor skills, etc., etc., – that an on screen app will not likely provide.
The toy execs that I spoke with on the subject have little explanation for it. There is no blockbuster toy this year for reasons that elude me and them. I'm not sure there was one last year. We have economic worries domestically, and Europe is a freakin’ mess, though toy sales in Europe are reported to be fine. Since time immemorial video games and computer games have competed and taken dollars away that might otherwise be spent on toys.
Is it a lack of innovation in product? Is it ineffective marketing? Is it the economy? What do you think?